Railbookers: “You don’t have to be a rail expert because we are”
Cris David

Railbookers: “You don’t have to be a rail expert because we are”

Rail travel is booming in a post-Covid world, with Railbookers leading the charge. Though the company specializes in train travel, it offers a wide array of vacation packages that includes everything from accommodations to transfers and sightseeing. As Cris David puts it, Railbookers is a one-stop shop that’s more than happy to work with travel agents. In this week’s Take 5, we sit down with Railbookers’ Vice President of Sales, Canada, to discuss all the need-to-knows about the company, what’s selling really well, and why it’s so easy for agents to book.

1. For travel agents who aren’t too familiar with Railbookers, can you tell us what it is the company does and what it offers?

“Railbookers is the go-to supplier for independent travel using rail as the primary means of transportation. We can book trains in most destinations worldwide including all of Europe, the continental United States, Canada, Alaska, Australia, India, South Africa and many more.

“Although we specialize in train travel, Railbookers is, in fact, a full-service FIT tour operator and our product is a vacation package including hotels, sightseeing tours and transfers in addition to all the rail segments needed to transport clients between the destinations included in their itinerary.

“Unlike any other supplier, we have the unique ability to book trains two years in advance, protecting travel advisors from the short ticketing window (usually less than 90 days) applicable on most European rail bookings.

“Our product portfolio includes a huge selection of ready-made packages, though we also build tailor-made itineraries to fit clients’ exact specifications. We are able to fill in the gaps for travel advisors looking to piece together the various components of a trip, with flexible extension packages for clients traveling on river or ocean cruises, escorted tours or VFR vacations. The flexible nature of our product enables us, as we like to say, to be the appetizer, main course or dessert, depending on the client’s needs.”

Railbookers: “You don’t have to be a rail expert because we are”


2. How does Railbookers work with travel agents? Is there anything in the pipeline that they should know about?

“Travel advisors book with Railbookers over the phone, receiving a personalized one-on-one consultation with our Rail Expert res agents. We work with travel advisors in real time, building the itinerary and sending an instant quote during the res call. One of the great benefits of booking FIT packages through Railbookers is that there is no delay between the inquiry and the quote – agents are able to present a detailed itinerary and quotation to the client immediately after speaking to us.

“A further benefit of the personalized service we offer is that we are able to provide agents with knowledgeable advice on the intricacies and details of rail travel: routes, schedules, timetables, seat reservations and which trains to book in which destinations. Europe, for example, has almost 30,000 train stations, around 3,000 routes and a great variety of separate regional operators which are not connected by any unified back end system.

“Railbookers is a port of call for agents seeking information, clarity and simplicity for FIT inquiries where rail is an essential part of the itinerary. We make it easy, convenient and worthwhile for agents to book rail, taking the complexity out of rail as a product category and providing a one-stop-shop where trains can be booked in conjunction with hotels and other independent travel components.”

Railbookers: “You don’t have to be a rail expert because we are”3. Now that travel has returned to normal, would you say that bookings are back to pre-pandemic levels? Which particular itineraries/destinations are selling really well in 2023?

“Railbookers has seen phenomenal growth in the post-Covid period; our global revenue is up more than 100% vs 2019. Prior to the pandemic we were not selling in Canadian dollars and had not yet established a strong presence in this market. But our growth in Canada has been consistent with the global trend, with 2023 revenue and passengers more than double their 2022 levels.

“This year we have seen very clear destination trends with Italy and Switzerland leading the way. Italy’s dominance rests on the surging popularity of specific destinations like the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, as well as the enduring appeal of the main tourism destinations of Rome, Florence and Venice. Italy is particularly conducive to independent exploration, with the extensive Trenitalia high speed rail network connecting all the highlight destinations, and trains bringing travelers directly to the city centers for convenient access to the top attractions.  Italy is also frequently booked as a land extension by Mediterranean cruise passengers disembarking in Civitavecchia.

Switzerland too boasts a comprehensive network of train routes connecting all the major cities and Alpine resorts, as well as world-famous scenic trains like the Glacier and Bernina Express and specially designed cogwheel trains transporting visitors to the summits of iconic mountain peaks like Lucerne’s Mount Pilatus and Zermatt’s Gornergrat. Exploring the beautiful Swiss towns and Alpine villages by rail is the perfect complement to Rhine River cruises and our cruise extension programs starting in Basel have contributed significantly to Switzerland’s high ranking among our European destinations.

“Other destinations that have made a strong showing in Canada for 2023 and 2024 departures have been Portugal, Sicily and Ireland. Canada too is very popular, with consistently strong demand for trans-country journeys featuring an extended stopover in the Rockies on the route between Toronto and Vancouver.

“Another post-Pandemic trend for Railbookers has been a marked increase in demand for luxury rail experiences. Clients looking for unique, bucket list experiences showcasing local culture, exceptional cuisine and outstanding service are drawn to iconic trains like the Venice Simplon Orient Express, Royal Scotsman, Maharaja’s Express, Blue Train, Rovos Rail, The Ghan and Al Andalus, to name a few. At Railbookers we incorporate these luxury trains into comprehensive itineraries featuring in-depth destination visits and complementary rail experiences. Our very popular “Venice Simplon Orient Express to Venice with the Glacier and Bernina Express” package, for example, combines the world’s foremost luxury rail encounter with the iconic Swiss scenic trains in an unforgettable 10-day journey.”

4. As the pandemic has shown, flexibility is a must nowadays. What flexible booking options/incentives does Railbookers offer travellers for added peace of mind?

“Railbookers enables agents to book trains, hotels and sightseeing experiences 2 years in advance of travel and lock in the quoted rate with a deposit of just $250 per person. Full payment is only required 90 or 60 days prior to departure, depending on the destination. Our booking terms provide travel advisors and their clients with the peace of mind of knowing that their arrangements are confirmed well in advance and the rate is guaranteed, protecting them from price increases or surcharges and allowing them to purchase future travel at current prices.”

5. What selling tips do you have for travel agents who have clients who’ve never booked rail journeys before? How do they make the jump from an all-inclusive or cruise vacation, to rail?

  • “You don’t have to be a rail expert because we are. If an obstacle to booking rail in the past has been lack of knowledge, information or feeling intimidated by the complexities rail travel, agents can call Railbookers and leave the tricky details to us. We are the travel agent to the travel agent when it comes to rail.
  • “A rail vacation can be an alternative or complement to a cruise, escorted tour or river cruise. For clients who are uncomfortable with the regimentation of a structured itinerary or concerned about traveling with a group we can provide a turnkey independent travel solution with all rail segments, hotels and sightseeing tours pre-booked and commissionable to the agent! Railbookers can also take clients beyond the ports cities, with dozens of flexible cruise extension packages connecting with all the river and ocean ports throughout Europe.
  • “Compared to a motorcoach, high-speed rail is incredibly fast. Traveling at over 300 kms/hr clients will get from Madrid to Barcelona, Rome to Florence or Paris to Lyon in just 2 hours. Coupled with the fact that train stations are centrally located in the heart of most European cities and the check in/boarding process is very quick, this means that clients have much more time in the destination to take in the ambience and the sights they came to enjoy.
  • “A Railbookers package is 100% tailored to the client’s budget and travel style – we provide the flexibility of being able to choose from a large selection of 3 to 5 star hotel options in each destination  and to customize the type, number and frequency of sightseeing tours and experiences.”

For more information go to www.railbookers.ca. Travel agents can also log into Railbookers’ Travel Agent Portal here.

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